Deliver Us From Retail

Hey, customer service workers! Have you been feeling guilty, thinking you were getting paid way too much at your retail job all year long? Well, now you can feel better because this is where you really earn that paycheck.

We’re now at the final stretch before Christmas, and your store’s traffic and sales should at least be triple their normal rate for each day until then. These heightened demands call for a special approach to preserve your commitment to top-notch customer service.

A sense of humor is paramount. Those around you may not often appreciate it, the point is that you will feel better when you make light of what goes on in the pandemonious confines of the store. Do what I do.

When somebody sets off the checkpoint when leaving, point and yell, “Seize him!”

When somebody sets off the checkpoint when entering, stroll across his/her path and say, “So you’ve decided to turn yourself in.” (The effect is accentuated by carrying a billy club or having a pair of gloves, one of which you take off and slap into your hand as you speak with a German accent.)

Occasionally read haiku over the store’s intercom. The old ones are the best. I suggest Basho:

Won’t you come and see

lonliness? Just one leaf

From the kiri tree

When somebody asks, “Do you work here?” don’t get all snarky and say something like, “no, but this nametag I wear is sponsored by Best Buy.” Make them part of a story. Motion for them to keep it down and wave them over to a corner. Then whisper the following in confidence:

“To them [point to a passing coworker] I’m one of their own, but I know, and now you know, I am a saboteur. If you’ve read The Man Who is Thursday then you will better understand my situation, for the best way to scuttle a regime is from the inside, yes? Could this, then, corrupt me, who am treading the corrosive acid within the very belly of the beast? Perhaps. I grapple with this possibility every day here. Which is why there is no time! I have postured, I have marched in step, I have sung their wretched anthems, and now I turn colors and execute. That I have told you all this puts you in immediate danger, and for that I am sorry, but it is necessary. Meet me behind ——– at ——— and you shall know our next move. Bring no one with you.”

Of course, the easiest way to enjoy your time working the holiday rush is to actually be friendly and give customers exactly what they want. Simple. But sometimes it is impossible.

You can’t please everybody all the time, but you can fool all of the people some of the time. With this in mind, I will now share with you one special technique.

The Back

For most customers, if you tell them that you don’t have the product they’re looking for, they realize that there’s no more you can do for them, and they will move on. Others, though, do not see this as sufficient reason to end the interaction.

You will know that you have encountered such an individual when you’ve said, “I’m sorry to say, sir/miss, but we’re sold out of that,” and he/she remains staring at you in an awkward silence. This person is likely either a trained interviewer or psychotherapist who knows that an enforced silence is a powerful stimulant to get the other party to continue speaking. In this situation, with a vacant stare, he/she aims to produce in you one of the following responses:

  • “Oh, just joshing ya! We’ve got a table stacked with ’em over here, follow me!”
  • “Alakazam! It is now in your trunk with a gift receipt.”
  • “I am so very sorry that on behalf of the store, I would like to present you with a $100 gift card and this sheet of stationery upon which you may write an angry letter to our CEO, which I will personally mail off with my resignation. In 7-10 days you should then receive another $100 gift card for your trouble.”

Most other responses besides these will be received as unacceptable. Your best option is this:

“Let me check The Back.”

The Back, as demonstrated in this comic, is where you disappear to in order to give the customer the impression that, while you do not have the product they’re looking for, you’re doing the utmost to conjure it. You can be sure that you’ve spent enough time in there if you’ve sung “Rocketman” at least once through.

One last piece of advice: remember to enjoy Christmastime itself and retain your goodwill toward men when you can. After all, you may still have your own shopping to do.

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4 thoughts on “Deliver Us From Retail

  1. I think Haikus are a risky, risky business. Not one I’d like to test on this hellishly crazy week.
    Funny you should mention Rocketman though, I’ve been singing it for about a week now and if I were to pick one waiting song, it’d be it.
    Do people actually get very rude in bookshops? I’m working in a liquor store, and people have been quite polite overall. then again, there’s still 4 days to go…

  2. Though a low-stress environment thankfully means fewer intense customers (I really feel for the Best Buy folks across the street from us), public rudeness still happens in bookstores and it is a sight to see.

    Funny you mention a liquor store. A guy who works in one just loaned me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

  3. ohhhh! please blog about Pride and Prejudice & Zombies, or at least let me know how you go with it, I’ve been eyeing it off for ages but can’t convince myself it’s a sound investment.

  4. You had me ROFLMAO so much my stomach hurts. You hereby owe me a $100 gift card for my troubles.

    I cannot remember the last time I heard(saw) someone use “alakazam!” for some reason I almost die laughing at that point. That was one truly hilarious post.

    As much as I know by the looks of my local bookstores that you have it tough, that’s child’s play compare to the nightmare I go through everyday working at a high-end clothing store where the rich and famous won’t take “no” for an answer and shoot daggers at you with their eyes when you tell them their chanel/prada/louboutin item is not available on their size, and “the back” doesn’t work with them.

    Happy Holidays mate.

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